The ARRL Board of Directors has adopted the recommendations of the Official Observer Program Study Committee, which would retire the 36-year-old Official Observer (OO) program and institute the Volunteer Monitoring (VM) program. The Board took the action at its 20-21 July 2018 meeting in Windsor, Connecticut, instructing that the transition “be implemented as soon as practicable.” Under the terms of the new program, current Official Observers will be invited to apply for appointment as Volunteer Monitors (VMs). The Board expressed its appreciation for the OOs and their dedicated volunteer service over the years.
The Board said the action is expected to re-energize enforcement efforts in the Amateur Radio bands and was undertaken at the request of the FCC in the wake of several FCC regional office closures and a reduction in field staff. Coordination of cases and evidence gathering would become the responsibility of ARRL Headquarters staff, while the FCC will retain the responsibility for final decisions regarding action in specific cases.
The study committee report spelled out the additional steps necessary to launch the Volunteer Monitoring program. Among them would be the appointment of a dedicated Headquarters staff member or an independent contractor working under the direction of ARRL Headquarters to administer the new program and interface with its participants. The Volunteer Monitoring program administrator would, among other duties, create a vetting and accreditation process for prospective Volunteer Monitors. The authority to accredit, appoint, and dismiss Volunteer Monitors would be assigned to ARRL Headquarters staff. Section Managers will continue to be a part of the vetting process for VMs, although they will not have appointment or dismissal authority.
Volunteer Monitor accreditation would be limited to a 3-year term, renewable by satisfying requirements necessary to ensure competency. A new Volunteer Monitoring Training Manual is in the final stages of development.
The administrator will create a target for the number of geographically distributed Volunteer Monitors. Preliminary plans would include up to five Volunteer Monitors per ARRL Section and up to 250 Volunteer Monitors overall.
In other duties, the administrator would “develop a rubric or other aid for program participants to highlight offenses and other criteria that the FCC considers a priority,” the motion said. The administrator also would be charged with organizing periodic webinars, highlighting technologies, techniques, and other continuing education topics that would assist, motivate, and better enable Volunteer Monitors. The FCC will be actively involved in the development and presentation of these training opportunities.
The new Volunteer Monitor program would continue to send notices recognizing good on-the-air operating practice. Under the new program, positive or negative operator notices eventually would be sent from ARRL Headquarters, not by individual Volunteer Monitors, in part to maintain their anonymity.
Another function of the Amateur Auxiliary — Local Interference Committees — will continue to be part of the total package, although their work is not directly addressable by the FCC.
The Board directed the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer to study the feasibility and cost of developing a centralized, web-based IT system that Volunteer Monitors as well as ARRL and FCC staff could access, in order to maximize the efficiency of administering the modernized program.
The action further authorized ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR, to terminate the standing Amended Agreement between ARRL and the FCC Field Bureau regarding the use of amateur volunteers and execute a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the ARRL and the FCC Enforcement Bureau. The MOU is under final review.
In other action, the Board:
- unanimously adopted recommendations of the ARRL Executive Committee to update ARRL’s Articles of Association and Bylaws (see the July 2018 issue of QST, p. 74, or refer to Minutes 22 – 25 of the Board’s July 20 – 21, 2018, meeting, when they are posted).
- established a 3-month general comment period for the ARES Strategic Plan with comments, due no later than October 31, after which the Public Service Enhancement Working Group (PSEWG) will present the final plan to the ARRL Annual Board of Directors meeting in January 2019 for consideration for adoption.
- received the preliminary final report of the PSEWG regarding the rollout of the ARES-Connect program, which will be announced in the September issue of QST. The Board agreed to obtain additional field input this fall.
- received an update from the CEO Search Committee.
- was informed, as part of the CEO’s report, of current work under way in preparation for World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC 2019). The issue of wireless power transmission (WPT) continues to be a concern leading up to the international conference.
- heard greetings from International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) President Tim Ellam, VE6SH/G4HUA, and from Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) President Glenn MacDonell, VE3XRA. Both attended as guests of the Board.
- heard the report of the ARRL Foundation from its president, New England Division Director Tom Frenaye, K1KI, who reported that the Foundation recently approved the award of approximately 80 scholarships totaling some $130,000.
- accepted and discussed reports from standing committees as well as ad hoc and advisory committees of the Board.